We sit down with Tripp Lanier, life coach and host of The New Man Podcast, to discuss how to live a kick-ass life, get what you want, and avoid becoming a middle-aged grouch. Rule number one: never, ever bullshit yourself.
For those who are reading about you for the first time, how would you explain your line of work?
Basically I help guys live kick-ass lives. That’s the bottom line. I know a lot of guys are kind of stuck in molds that just don’t fit them. My role is to show them all these different possibilities that they didn’t know were available to them.
I feel like much of your message can resonate with someone who’s recently graduated from college, trying to figure out what he wants to do, looking for direction, but unwilling to commit out of fear of failure. Can you talk about your own post-college years?
I was really lucky: right after college I knew what I wanted to do. I started a video production company about five months after I graduated, and I had gone to art school—I didn’t have business backing—but my mindset at the time was I could fail spectacularly and still be OK.
That to me is the dichotomy that we’re talking about here: I’m afraid of failure and I’m afraid to give anything a shot versus I’m going to take this one thing and just explore it and see what happens. I’m no worse off than just being stuck. At least I’ll learn something, and make some connections along the way.
So I went for it, and the company was successful, and I used it to fund the music I was doing, but there was something else that I was noticing. I had the life a lot of guys wanted. I had the successful business, the cool hobby, the girlfriend thing going on, I had the house, and I was still young, in my mid- to late-20s. And I realized: wait a second, it’s not going to be more money that’s going to make me feel more fulfilled, it’s not going to be more women, it’s not going to be a hit record. I started to get anxious—what’s going to make me fulfilled? Could I do this for another 10, 15, 20, 30 years? And I knew the answer was no.
Is this how The New Man came to fruition?
Yes. I think a lot of men figure that out in their 50s or 60s—they call it a midlife crisis—and I hit it early on. Meaning was something that was lacking in what I was doing. I finally dealt with some emotional stuff that had happened to me in my teens. I went from a place of trying to control and manage everything in my life, to just getting really curious. On the other side of being terrified about everything, life just became this big adventure to me, and I was willing to take some more chances.
If I get this one shot at life—I don’t want to play it safe, and I don’t necessarily want to be the crazy guy either, reckless or hurtful. At the same time I knew if I didn’t do something I’m really proud of, I was gonna be sorry, I was gonna have a life of regret. That became the search. That’s how I got into this line of work, how The New Man came about.
Did you have your own coach or a mentor?
I had some good friends who helped me out. But I didn’t have a mentor, or someone who had been through the same thing. And it wasn’t until years later that I started to hear about terminology for it, or started to hear about people who had gone through similar things.
I thought, this is bullshit—why should men have to go through this alone? First of all, it’s the biggest joke in the world to think that you’re alone. You’re not. I want to make it the mission of The New Man: if another guy is going through the same thing, he can easily find a coach or a mentor. That was the biggest fallacy that I created: that I was alone in all of this.
When guys do come to talk to you, do you notice any common themes in the types of problems they’re having?
Most of the time, it’s the feeling of being stuck. They’ve gotten to a certain point in their lives, and they can’t quite get to the next place, they’re not even sure what the next thing is. I always feel like there aren’t enough options on the menu. The reason is, most of the time they’re living within this confined box. The box needs to be bigger. I help them identify what their life would like if they took some of the fears away and got creative.
Do you think men today, in the 21st century, face a unique set of challenges relative to other generations?
Guys that are coming of age now are in a unique position in that we’re standing on the shoulders of our fathers and our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers. It’s a luxury to have these challenges. My grandfather was fighting in a world war, my father went to war. It’s a luxury to be able to sit here and be like, Man, what am I really going to do with my life? To me, that’s the amazing beauty of it. And it can be painful.
One of the guests on your show, Jason Gaddis, talked about how every culture across time has had an initiatory process where an adolescent becomes a man. But in our culture, we sorely lack a real initiation process. Fraternities can act as a sort of quasi-initiation into manhood, but they also fail on a number of levels. Gaddis went on mini “vision quests” and sought guidance from others. Did you undergo any sort of “initiation” or spiritual quest?
In my mid- to late 20s, I felt like I was living a double life. On the one hand I had my “normal” friends and my business. But on the weekends I was flying off to different retreats and consuming as much information as I could through books, and I was hungry, I was starving for meaning, for some sort of translation as to what was going on in my life.
So I did do a lot of exploring, and some of it was in that retreat style. Before, I didn’t want anything to challenge my worldview. Now I was like, bring it on, show me what’s out here in the world.
But it was fun. Some guys will turn it into an Into the Wild–type thing, where it’s gotta be really demanding and crazy and bring us close to death. I didn’t feel like I needed that. But I did wonder, well, what else is out there? How are other people living their lives and finding joy and pleasure and meaning? Is the only way to do it the American way, the American dream? That’s what I was seeking to challenge.
What’s the biggest mistake we can make?
This tendency to collapse into fear. To me, that’s where we screw up—when we stifle our desire or vision because it doesn’t fit in with what we see around us. That’s a huge mistake, to not even allow yourself to want something, or voice it. There’s this huge fear that if we allow ourselves to really want something, we’ll impulsively go into action and screw it all up. I deal with that a lot with my clients—just getting them to say yes to what they want in life. They’re miserable because they’re not allowing themselves to want what they really want, much less have it.
What was your dad like?
I have an awesome dad. He is fantastic, he is a rock. In terms of a guy I needed to just be solid for me, he’s been that from day one. He’s also never let me get away with bullshitting. One of the most valuable lessons he taught me is don’t lie to yourself. If you lie to yourself, you lie to everyone else. In some way he instilled this little trigger in me that I know when I’m bullshitting.
At one point I was trying to make him into everything. I wanted him to be everything to me, which was incredibly unfair, and it placed a lot of pressure on him, and our relationship was uncomfortable for quite a few years. Then I read something somewhere that said, “if you’re not in jail right now, if you’re not being taken care of by the state, then your father did his job.”
And I remember just relaxing, thinking, I’m way beyond that. I’m a contributor in the world. My dad kicked ass. I realized it wasn’t just my dad’s responsibility, that it was uncles, and friends of my father’s, and so many other people in a supporting role, and it’s not just one man’s job to be everything to me. Now that I’m a father, I realize the importance of that, too: I’m never going to be everything to my daughter.
I’m glad I turned that corner, because it felt like I could see him as a human being again and not some superhero.
What do you think of traditional men’s magazines?
Most men’s magazines are serving up what “their guy” wants. I read some men’s magazines and enjoy them and I think they have something to contribute. But I think for the most part they’re doubting their reader’s ability to deal with depth and to deal with meaning. There’s a fear to challenge the reader.
In my experience, with the responses I get from the guys I work with, who are so thankful and so appreciative that someone’s talking about this stuff, I’m thinking, Wow, why isn’t GQ doing this?
What’s your most cherished guy ritual?
Every morning, my wife brings our baby daughter in, and I wake up with my daughter beating my chest and punching me in the beans. It’s the absolute best way to start the day—the giggling, the fun, the kissing—it just totally melts my heart. I could get killed that day, in a car accident or something, and I’ll be so glad I played with my daughter and wife that morning.
What advice would you give to teenage boys trying to figure out what it means to be a good man?
Number one: get into the practice of being honest with yourself. It’s probably scary, but even if you aren’t ready for action, you can use it as a starting point.
Second, don’t dismiss what you really want and who you really are. Don’t let how other people are living their life govern what you do. Be willing to own what you really want in life, because life’s not gonna come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, this is what you wanted, and we’re going to deliver it.” It doesn’t work that way.
Another one is to stay curious. Life gets really dull when we think we know everything, and so I would ask, “What is it that you want to learn? What’s intriguing to you?” Follow that thread of things that light you up and demand your attention.
The most important piece of advice, though, is to have fun. It’s so easy to go through life and constantly be on this search—so many guys who I talk to are all about passion, and purpose, or mission—and forget that what it’s really about is just having fun. If you’re curing cancer but it’s not fun to you and it’s making you a grumpy asshole, then stop doing it. I really believe that. The world doesn’t need another grumpy asshole, so go find what it is that you love to do, and feed off that passion and that fun thing, because that’s infectious and that’s going to be what inspires more people.
To learn more about Tripp and to listen to his podcasts, check out his website.